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Amsterdam coffee house owners on the warpath

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Angry Amsterdam coffee shop owners have made a hash of the launch of a Web site selling marijuana.

iToke was due to start taking orders online for dope in the Amsterdam area last Friday, but after fears that the city's coffee drinking establishments would kick up a fuss - and there'd be a media circus - the two Americans opted to postpone the launch date.

Speaking from his boat off the coast of Spain, iToke co-founder Tim Freccia seemed mystified at the development. "We're just there to get along with everybody and put a happy face on pot," he told CNET.

According to Freccia, who started the venture with childhood pal Mike Tucker, the two were worried about "some recent misperceptions regarding iToke's goals and business model".

"We're not in Amsterdam to 'Amazonify' pot," he said, stressing: "It's not like the nation of Holland is against us. We just need to cool off and then allay fears from the existing community."

Coffee shop owners reportedly saw iToke as a threat to business - fears compounded by the amount of media attention its planned launch has generated. The venture has been flooded with press requests since it announced plans to take orders for pot from WAP phones and the Web, and the two former media professionals were said to be worried that camera crews would bombard e-weed shoppers from day one.

But the company, which promises to take orders anonymously for up to two grammes of pot and deliver within 30 minutes in the Amsterdam area, refused to accept defeat.

It still aims to launch - but first wants to make peace with the rest of the dope-selling community in Europe's drug epicentre.

"We've cleaned up the image of pot culture; it's no longer some hacky-sack-kicking, hippy weirdo thing. We've proved that there's a tremendous market for iToke," said Freccia.

"We want our market to trust us and love us first. Then we move on to logistics of operations."

This involves setting up kiosks around Amsterdam where prospective customers could buy iTokens. These will be used as payment when the dope is delivered via bike courier.

But Freccia was reluctant to release further details. "This is something that is going to happen, and it's going to happen soon. What we won't do is release a date, because that turned around to bite us," he said. ®

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